Fight Bits Round 4 – Ladies First.
Women tend to face a more dangerous predator than most men ever will. While men are not immune to sexual harassment, rape and brutality it is for the female that generally very sadistic and self-righteous rogues tend to focus their intentions upon. Because of this and because of the general differences between masculine and feminine physiology, women tend to need greater assistance and focus when it comes to learning how to preserve themselves and their loved ones during the moments of vicious and intimate violence.
With this in mind, many women are drawn to martial art academies and gyms in the hopes of finding an honest answer to some very frightening questions. Instead they are often fed doctrines, lies and at best half-truths. Whether charlatans of naked intention or as equally as naïve as their students many experts when it comes to women’s self-defence offer a faith based approach to the reality of consequential violence. Or they assume good intentions alone will ensure survival.
It is with great consideration that any one should commence their training in violence, it is with personal appreciation for the many realms that one may find themselves in. Generally, individuals from differing professions, dispositions and physical make ups can find themselves facing different settings, where their needs in combat will vary accordingly. For most men, it is with confrontation that they may often concern themselves, the unarmed duel between egos. In other instances, it may be in the guardian role, as the traditional patriarch of a family or group, where they are usually expected to provide defence and a clear mind in moments of physical crisis.
For most women, it is under the circumstances of the ambush setting that they can find themselves experiencing violence. The attack will be unexpected, sudden and will lack any honour, no dialogue or announcement of intention. It will be harsh and vulgar, should the attackers succeed then the outcome will be beyond the imagined. It is because of this that many women need to at first address the mindset needed to deal with the sudden force imposed upon them. Many have never experienced a physical hand on encounter, unlike boys most girls in childhood tend to lack the rough play that helps to steer them into later life. Because of this, the sudden sensation of being handled by a stranger can shut one down. Causing every intended technique to suddenly be lost in the paralysis of crisis.
Many women’s specific courses tend to focus on “empowering” the women, as though it is an issue of feminism or rights. As though how one feels about themselves is in some way going to deter a sinister attacker from focusing their intentions on the potential victim. Whether one is a female, male or transperson training in combat should be born inside an insecurity. One should always realise that they are mortal and flawed, that they have weaknesses. The training and practice should be about securing these weak points and ensuring that one can navigate the violence, whether that happens to be through an escape or the vicious destruction of the threat. One should drive themselves to improve knowing that predators lurk beyond the civility of the mundane.
Fear is important. It is what bought most into the folds of needing to train. Fear is a wise instinct that keeps animals alive, humanity is an animal despite its self-obsessions. Claiming that one should be free of fear or simply ignore it, is idiotic. One should not expect to be intimidated or bullied, this is unjust. One should however learn to navigate and deal with fear, learn to use it whether in their flight or flight instincts. Most of all one should learn composure and ability despite the presence of fear.
Many experts on self defence and especially women’s self defence are virginal when it comes to fear and the nature of real violence. They assume authority based upon their own arrogance or sincere desire to “help”. Though they themselves usually cannot answer honestly the savage questions of attack and confrontation. Instead they shield themselves and their students with tricks, doctrines and lies. This leads the student and expert to seek a place focused on positivity and slogans. A social experience where the original missions statement comes a distant second.
One should not expect to train in combat relevant training so that they may feel better about themselves or walk around with a sense of swagger. Being combat capable is a personal culture, it is lived. It is about always being on and always preparing. It cannot be graded, it is not enough to do a day course or to be webinared. It is something that the individual needs to take into their own hands daily, if their life is worth protecting, if their loved ones are so precious then it deserves more than simply outsourcing it to the local snake oil sales person for a couple of days a month.
While many who advocate self-defence training are very well meaning, most of them are ignorant as to what it feels like to experience combat. Let alone against a far bigger and stronger foe. It is one thing to sometimes say “size does not matter” it is another to prove it inside the realms of combat, whether sanctioned or not. For those who are giving up a size and strength advantage, they need to be convinced at every level that what they are learning is effective in the hopes of it serving them in those horrible moments. Deluding them can often cause them to enter situations intentionally despite their lack of real skills and abilities based on arrogant assumptions thanks to ignorant practices.
For most women who have trained in a martial art or in a combat sport, should they exhibit some competence and sparred, grappled, wrestled or even hard drilled then there is a chance that provided the situation is right that they will defend themselves well. Anecdotes of women choking out and knocking out larger and aggressive attackers with their martial art skills are ever present, and these are great victories of justice. This however is not a harbinger for all to succeed however, others success does not ensure your own. It does however give you data by which to utilise in your own pursuit.
The most important consideration that most women need to appreciate is that they should not limit their self-preservation to simply grappling only or striking only solutions. They should consider themselves fighters. There should be no distinction between grappling and striking, only fighting. They are just as important and as relevant, one should not limit themselves to doctrines that come from martial art bias. Just as one should not focus on weapons only, the practice in weapons is as important as the empty hand. Lead and steel are great equalisers for women, especially if she knows how to handle either.
It is the naïve assumption that in carrying around a blade or a firearm that this is in itself a deterrent or a comforter. Skilled practice in such weapons and in appreciating that they are not always at hand is important to the carrier. It is important for all practioners in combat to realise that they need to weaponise themselves, mind and body. Whatever is at hand is a weapon but most of all, you need to be the weapon system. Wherever you happen to be is your battleground and you must fight on it. Practice and competent drilling with this in mind is of paramount importance, armed or not.
While many in the martial arts tend to slavishly focus on forms and technique only situations, fantasising about the perfect moments of rigid application by which to defend themselves they are going down a limiting and singular path. Just as those who obsess with their fitness are. Training to get fit, to exert at near maximal levels under the illusion of having tremendous stamina and strength is flawed. These are great attributes to possess but without experience, wisdom and the ability to retain composure while under fire, stress alone will sap you of all that hard work. Not to mention the incoming volleys of violence, which really do not care how much you can lift or how far you can run.
It is with the constant reminder of one’s flaws and weaknesses that one can only hope to strengthen them, not in ignoring these facts by ‘empowering’ oneself with empty fitness goals. Exercise should be a compliment to one’s pursuit in self-preservation, not the sole emphasis. The conditioning and “fitness” you gain from wrestling, sparring and hard drilling will transcend any gained from generic exercise. Plus it will provide the student with an ability to react and navigate the physical geography and violent puzzles that they may be presented with.
Many exponents of women’s self-defence will teach one how to block or execute a palm strike, often in very stationary settings. Suggesting that a smaller person should block a full power blow from a much larger attacker tends to depict a degree of naivety let alone when footwork and kinetic linkage is disregarded, it is outright dangerous. Telling a woman that a palm strike, eye gouge and groin strike are enough to stop the attacker in his tracks often ignores the “and then…” aspect of combat. It instead can instil an entitled expectation that this is enough.
Techniques and overly rigid templates create a sense of entitlement in the student, they assume that should they rehearse these actions then every time the outcome will be ensured, that the attacker in real life will be as lifeless and cooperative as the training partner. In truth, should the threat not respond according to script then the entitled student can find themselves lost because they have never performed anything living in their training only robotic pre-determined actions. This is very dangerous because combat is organic calamity, it needs to be navigated. It can not be rehearsed.
It is with feeling the impact of hitting something or someone, experiencing what it feels like to be hit. Knowing how it feels to kick and suffer a kick, to be taken down, to take someone resisting you down. To find that resistance, to appreciate that once you have attempted one action, that you need try for another one without withdrawing and resetting. Go, go, go until you have attained success. This all comes with real practice and combative training, not in any limited and sometimes dangerous reinforcements of deceit.
It is in the realms of the grappling only doctrines that women are taught submissions that are born out of sport, where the defeated party is offered the chance to surrender. Inside the realm of real violence, once you break an arm this person may not register the break. They may continue attacking, then what? In fact, I had a professional sports fight where I threw a punch, which rocked my opponent, allowing me to swing into an armbar. He did not tap because he could not feel the pain, instead I was attached to his mangled arm while he laid their waiting for the next part of combat. This was sport, so I withdrew and pointed out that his arm was compromised, thus honourably winning. With this in mind, one should consider that most armbar applications are usually best for sports, it allows the participants control and time to submit. In the street it can lack a finality unless one moves to the next moment once the arm has been injured.
Just as is the case with choking, should a smaller party gain control and seize their foe in a choke hold, once they release that person and they come back online, they will be more violent and guarded against suffering a choke again. If you are facing a very dangerous threat and you are able to choke them, hold it well and truly after they go limp. Do not release prematurely, especially if they are on top of you and you do not have time to escape. If the attacker is violent and a potential rapist, plunge your thumbs into their eyes while they are out so that should they come back to consciousness then at the very least they are inhibited in their vision. Should you hold the choke too long and they suffer brain death, then so be it. This is the cost to them for bringing violence to you.
If you are a capable striker do not assume that just because you scored in the practice hall that this will somehow translate to your foe falling dead. A well-placed shot can be enough sometimes, and sometimes it is not. Do not admire your execution of technique and reset back into a dangerous area once you have landed your strikes, keep going until they no longer move. Or until they have succumbed.
If you have a weapon it can often take more than one blow or stab to defeat them, blood-sweat on the handle and the impact of the blow can cause you to lose grip. Make sure you are aware and practiced with this potentiality. Always be aware of where your weapon is, control of it and yourself is paramount especially if third parties are present. If the situation is desperate enough to use a weapon in your self perseveration, then make sure you complete the task of you and your family’s survival.
The reality is that many attackers of women feel that they are entitled to their victims. Some are random and opportune whereas many know their victims. Whether they were once intimate or are a creepy stalker who is obsessed with their victim. Because of this when they attack they can be determined and not easily swayed. While some attackers may give up after initial defence because they are not interested in risking themselves any longer. The stalker or the obsessed threat may need to be stopped absolutely or until they no longer move. This needs to be considered.
One last thing, do not wait for a white knight. Do not expect a saviour. Do not think that someone will intervene and do not bank your survival on professionals. The police will often arrive too late and when they do, do not hold faith that they are any better than you are when it comes to dealing with violence. If you are out in public, do not hope that those strangers who will morbidly watch your misery from a far to come and help you. Many instances exist where the wider public and professionals were witnesses to a victim’s death and shame. If help comes, it is a blessing. BUT you are alone, and it is for you and yourself to defeat the threat.
If you have a loved one who is stronger and larger than you, whenever you can enlist their help to practice some moves and drill actions. Practice on the bed, where pillows and sheets are an inhibitor, outside on the grass, in the kitchen or on some mats in the gym. Get a feel for how much environment is a factor and how you need to adjust your form to ensure your victory. By practicing with a loved one, they should be able to give you honest feedback and you can execute your actions with control and smoothness. Do not mistake recklessness for speed. Ego is a deal breaker when it comes to honest learning. Feedback, most of all criticism of poor form is essential!
The combat sports and martial arts traditionally have a military application. They are often marred to the states lust for war and humanities desire to destroy itself through mechanised and refined violence. Inside the realms of wise philosophy however are those who look to the lessons of combat and the many arenas of battle to gain knowledge and experience so that those most exposed to the vile predators shall benefit. With such a philosophy, ladies should go first when it comes to the application of martial self-preservation. If you assume strength and power, then you are flawed when you face a foe who has both over you.
Kym Robinson, November 2017